If you like redemption options for rewards, then the American Express Membership Rewards Program provides you with a long list of ways to spend your points and redeem your credit card rewards. But some methods of atonement are more effective than others.
With a few exceptions, paying for airfare provides the most value for your Membership Rewards points. And, if you want to go that extra mile (or thousands of extra miles), consider transferring your points to one of the American Express travel partners. You can get values of 2 cents per point or more by finding nice spots in the redemption levels.
Best Ways to Use Amex Points
Find out now how to maximize your rewards:
Redeem your points on the Amex Travel Portal
The American Express Travel Portal is a complete travel website where you can book all types of travel including hotels, travel packages and cruises. When you book a trip through American Express Travel (in addition to airfare), you earn 0.7 cents per point. This makes it a relatively unattractive option for using your American Express points.
Like most travel sites, American Express Travel allows you to search for flights within a range of dates and from different airlines. You can book any available flight with your rewards starting from 5000 points. The average cost of one point for air travel is 1 cent.
To the airline, the tickets you book through American Express Travel look like cash tickets, so you’ll earn miles and elite status on your award flight. This is another factor to consider when determining the total cost of your ticket.
Airfare prices on American Express Travel tend to be competitive compared to other travel sites. However, you will need to deduct booking fees from the total ticket price. There is a $6.99 fee for domestic flights and travel packages, a $10.99 fee for international flights and travel packages, and a $39 fee for phone bookings. Before you book, you should compare with other travel sites to make sure you get the best bang for your buck.
Another travel option is the Upgrade with Points program, introduced in 2019 by American Express, which allows you to bid on upgrades using Membership Rewards points. With 20 different airlines, you can use your points at the cost of 1 cent per point to upgrade from an economy ticket with cash to a premium ticket. As part of the program, you offer an upgrade to an eligible booking, and then you’ll know within five days of your flight if the offer was accepted.
As we are about to explore, transferring points can be more beneficial than using the American Express travel portal, but it does require some work. While booking travel through Amex Travel may not be the best value, it’s a good choice if you want an easy way to book flights without worrying about blackout dates and restrictions.
Transferring American Express points to airlines
If you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you can find a transfer fee of two or three times what you get through the travel portal.
This is especially true if you are interested in a special trip in the cabin of a premium airline. Using points for this can bring you outstanding value. American Express has 20 travel partners, including 17 airlines, that can take you almost anywhere you want to go, and your points convert at a 1:1 rate to most of them.
The cost of one point varies greatly depending on the program. You also need to be aware that American Express charges an excise tax of 0.06 cents per point you transfer (up to $99) when you transfer to a US-based airline or hotel chain. This excise duty is relatively small, but it is important to take it into account when calculating the cost.
If you’re looking to get the best value for your membership rewards, it really all comes down to airfare. The following estimated points value for each of American Express’ partner airlines is based on The Points Guy’s current ratings and CreditCards.com ratings:
American Express partner airlines
|Partner airline||Transmission time||Transfer ratio||Estimated item value (including transfer factor and excise duty where applicable)|
|Aer Lingus||Instantaneous||1:1||1.5 cents|
|Aeromexico||24 hours||1:1.6||0.6 cents|
|All Nippon Airlines (ANA)||48 hours||1:1||1.4 cents|
|Asia Miles||72 hours||1:1||1.3 cents|
|Avianka LifeMiles||Instantaneous||1:1||1.7 cents|
|british airways||72 hours||1:1||1.5 cents|
|Delta SkyMiles||Instantaneous||1:1||1.41 cents|
|Emirates Skywards||48 hours||1:1||1.2 cents|
|Etihad Guest||120 hours||1:1||1.4 cents|
|flying blue||96 hours||1:1||1.2 cents|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Instantaneous||1:1||0.9 cents|
|Iberia Plus||48 hours||1:1||1.5 cents|
|Singapore ChrisFlyer||up to 24 hours||1:1||1.3 cents|
|Virgin Atlantic||Instantaneous||1:1||1.5 cents|
Transferring Amex points to hotels
Only three of Amex’s travel partners are hotels, and they aren’t as lucrative as the best airline transfer options, but those partners are Hilton, Choice, and Marriott, big chains with thousands of hotels around the world.
Although the value of points falls below 1 cent for all hotel chains, it may still be worthwhile to transfer your Amex points to these partner hotels if you are already a regular customer of one of them and just need a few thousand points for your next free stay. Here’s how a hotel pickup is priced:
|Hotel partner||Transmission time||Transfer ratio||Estimated points value (including transfer rate)|
|Choice Privileges||Instantaneous||1:1||0.6 cents|
|Hilton Honors||Instantaneous||1:2||0.6 cents|
|Marriott Bonvoy||Instantaneous||1:1||0.8 cents|
Use American Express points for gift cards and cashback
American Express allows you to redeem points for a variety of gift cards, including travel, restaurant, and shopping. Gift cards are a decent redemption option – most gift cards give you 1 cent per point, which is the equivalent of a membership reward. However, beware of lower value gift cards. American Express branded gift cards cost only 0.5 cents per point.
You can also use your Amex points as a spending statement on your credit card account (a minimum of 1,000 points is required to redeem). Unfortunately, statement credits only cost 0.6 cents per point, so points are not being used effectively.
Redeem your Amex points for purchases
American Express has many merchant partners including Amazon, Walmart, Grubhub, and Best Buy that let you link your account to their sites and redeem points with one-click checkout.
In addition, you can use your Membership Rewards points through PayPal wherever this service is accepted. These options are convenient, but they also make poor use of points, since you only get 0.7 cents for each point. However, if you don’t have a vacation on the horizon, this option might be attractive.
The American Express shopping portal gives you even fewer points. Although you will find many goods through the portal, your rewards are worth 0.5 cents per point. If you are determined to use your Membership Rewards points to shop online, your best bet is to visit one of the American Express channel partners.
Use Amex Points for Charity and Concerts
You can also use your Amex points to support thousands of different charities. Simply select the charity you wish to donate to and you can redeem your points at a cost of 0.7 cents per point.
You can even use your points to buy tickets to concerts and events through Ticketmaster and AXS, but this is not recommended. Points cost 0.5 cents each when redeemed for event tickets.
There are many different ways you can earn American Express points, so it’s wise to understand which ones give you the most value. While they are easy and convenient to use for gift cards or merchant partners like Amazon, they are usually of low value and generally not recommended.
Most people will get the most out of their points by either transferring them to partner airlines or hotels, or by booking flights directly through Amex Travel. Which one is right for you depends on what type of travel you are looking for and how much effort you want to put in. It can be helpful to spend some time comparing the cash value through Amex Travel with the value in points if you are transferring to a partner to see which one makes sense for you.